タグ: tokyo

Love Letter to Tokyo

A.M. (ICC Student Staff Leader)

Reading this blog post, I think you will know which one of us student staff wrote it, but I have never been shy about sharing my thoughts or my feelings, so this is my love letter to internationalism.

I first came to Japan in 2017, straight after the most bizarre, jam-packed month of my life. In my last 30 days at home, I made Christmas dinner with my friends in the lingering heat of the summer, had minor surgery, and one week later ran my first marathon. The truth is, I pushed myself to do as many things as I could before leaving my home country, because I was scared. I was scared about moving to the other side of the world, not knowing what to do if something bad happened, being so far from friends, from family. It was totally different to times when I had left home before, as I wouldn’t be able to fly right home if there was an emergency.  

My 留学生活 , however, did not disappoint. It was 10 months of great change. I made friends from all over the world, improved my Japanese to a level I never could have achieved at home, visited all the places I wanted to go, stayed up and watched the sun rise more times than I could count. I had made my new home, and my new home was Tokyo. 

Until it was time to leave again. No matter how much I wanted to, I had to go back to finish my undergraduate degree. I was fresh off the plane from Tokyo, so fresh in fact that I was still waking before the sun, when I scheduled a meeting with my professor. It was finally time to start thinking about what I was going to do after finishing my Bachelor’s degree. I knew I wanted to do a Master’s degree, continue in my field of language and cultural studies,; I wanted to focus on Japanese, but was at a loss as to how I could have it all. That’s how my story with Waseda began.  

A grueling 21- month process of researching, writing, applying for scholarship, finishing essays, panicking before oral exams, graduating, finding a full- time job, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, all the while, dreaming of Tokyo. The email came at the end of February 2020. A scholarship and an acceptance letter. I was going back home!  

Sometimes it seems that there is a cruel irony in the fact that I have come here during the coronavirus pandemic. Yes, I was able to come to Tokyo, and start the graduate student life experience… from the comfort of my own home. I have not met most of my classmates, nor very many people at all for that matter. It was not until I started working at the ICC, that I began to feel as I used to.  

The ICC has given me the chance to cross paths with so many people, the gift of hearing their stories, and courtesy of sharing a small part of their lives. I have relearned what I knew to be true before this pandemic;: the value of interaction. I don’t believe in the archaic ideas of borders, or nationalism,  these are silly categories that confine individuals to a certain set of expectations which they may or may not live up to. And when you sit behind the counter at the ICC, this is what you see. Not groups of students that can be neatly separated by country, but a bricolage of culture, identity, and personality.  

And this never fails to remind me why I love living in Tokyo. There is a vast, never ending expanse of people just waiting to have their story heard. There is a constant flow of those moving away, those moving in, those moving around. There is always a new road that I haven’t followed, a train line not yet taken, a building I have never seen. The permutations are limitless.

Of course, there are times in which it feels too much. Being so far away from home and everything that I know. I don’t have much of a community, nor a place to remind me of home. Sometimes I long for someone who will give me that familiar feeling. 

But every morning and every evening, as I look out at the view of Tokyo, framed by my kitchen window, I remember why I worked so hard to be here, and why this is truly a freedom like no other. 

Image from Imgur

It’s Cherry Blossom Season!

After the warm and boring winter in Tokyo, finally, spring is coming! Though this year the ICC Hanami event was canceled due to the coronavirus, you all still have plenty of choices to enjoy this beautiful season because the city is going to be filled with Sakura. You can find it in your neighbor’s garden, in your neighborhood park, school and anywhere.

Today, I am going to talk about my experience with Hanami in Tokyo.

Hearing the fame of the cherry blossom in Japan for a long time, I eventually was able to see it with my own eyes 3 years ago when I began my studies at Waseda University. During the spring of my freshman year, I was so excited about it. I visited most of the popular places and saw the joy Hanami brings to everyone. It is hard to tell whether one place is better than another, but I am going to list my personal Top 5 Hanami Places. This is all based on my own preference, and I welcome all of your opinions about your favorite Hanami place.

No. 5 Ueno Park

This is a really interesting place to visit especially in the evening. You will see lots of Japanese office workers sitting under the trees having drinking and welcoming parties. They are very well prepared with picnic sheets, tables, lights, food, drinks and sometimes even mini-refrigerators! I think the cherry blossom season at Ueno Park is a wonderful opportunity for foreigners to know about Japanese company network building and urban culture.

No. 4 Shinjuku Gyoen

Since Shinjuku Gyoen is a well-organized royal garden, besides cherry blossoms there are still many other scenery spots you can enjoy in the garden. Also because it charges an entry fee, there are fewer visitors than other free open spaces. My way to enjoy Shinjuku Gyoen is to bring my breakfast early in the morning, finding a place on the grass near a cherry tree and enjoying the food, sunshine and the peaceful cherry blossoms before the place becomes too crowded. The ideal time for breakfast at Gyoen is before 12:00 am.

No. 3 Kanda River

As a Waseda student, you definitely should not miss this beautiful riverside cherry blossom spot. It is also an alternative to the crowded Meguro River. But instead of making you feel like you’re at a scenic spot, Kanda River makes you feel relaxed and closer to the daily life of Japan. Most importantly, it is close to the campus which means you can casually drop by any time to enjoy the cherry blossom there when you come to school.

No.2 Meguro River

Getting off the train at Naka-Meguro Station, you can feel the popularity of this place immediately. Not only Japanese but tourists from all over the world urge to see the romantic pink Sakura arch along the Meguro River. At night, there are illuminations and it makes the whole place even more beautiful. If you are tired of being part of the crowd, there are lots of distinctive cafés and restaurants for you to enjoy the view and indulge your gourmet side at the same time.

No.1 Chidorigafuchi

If you are looking for a more breathtaking Sakura scene, you should never miss this place. Though there’s nowhere to sit under the trees and it’s usually very crowded, it’s totally worth it. You will be walking along the green-lined paths under the Sakura and watching the blossoms arch over both sides of moat of the Imperial Palace. Boating on the water surrounded by Sakura is also a way to enjoy the beautiful view if you are willing to wait in line for about 2 hours. There is illumination at night. The best part is that you can see Tokyo Tower from there, which makes you feel you are in the Tokyo of your dreams.

Honorable Mention: Rikugien Garden

I want to give an honorable mention to Rikugien Garden because it is quite different from other Hanami places listed above. Rikugien Garden is originally famous for traditional Japanese Garden instead of a Hanami place. However, they have special species of Sakura each tree of which is huge. The garden charges visitors at evening because they have illuminations for the whole garden. Seeing those breathtaking huge trees in the dark is kind of special experience for me.

Find and enjoy the beauty of this season!

Considering the current situation, it is better not to go to crowded Hanami places. You can save this blog for your TO GO LIST for next year. For this year, instead of heading to these popular places, you can try to explore somewhere else maybe just in your neighborhood. I think the excitement of Hanami is not only about where you go, but your feelings. If you are in a good mood and feel energetic, then anywhere would be the best spot for your Hanami. I am sure you will find the best place for you to enjoy the beautiful blossom.

 

T.L. (Student Staff Leader)

Getting around Tokyo is easy

Do you use train every day in Tokyo? Have you ever got lost in the train station? This article will help you to go around easier in Tokyo with some tips. This year is almost my fourth year in Japan and I hope that you see this one is useful. I have used train in some other countries but for me the train network in Japan is the most complicated.

It looks scary right? But it would be fine if you stay calm and carefully check the signs! And don’t forget that all the staffs are very friendly and always be there for you!

Today I will talk about the city that never sleeps and it almost reach 14 million people this year, Tokyo. It has 882 interconnected rail stations in the Tokyo Metropolis, 282 of which are Subway stations, with several hundred more in each of the 3 surrounding densely populated suburban prefectures. Tokyo is covered by a dense network of train, subway and bus lines, which are operated by about many different companies. People in the city mostly use the train lines by JR East because it’s convenient and famous stations. When I first arrived in Tokyo and lived inside the downtown, I always used JR Yamanote Line. I guess a lot of you have already known this line as it’s passed by Takadanobaba and some other famous spots like Shibuya and Shinjuku. The city’s 13 subway lines are operated by two companies and run largely inside the Yamanote circle and the areas around Ginza and the area east of the loop line. Most of the many suburban train lines commence at one of the six major stations of the Yamanote Line (Yellow-green): Tokyo, Ueno, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya and Shinagawa.

Besides that, there are some major JR lines in Tokyo: Keihin-Tohoku Line (Light- blue), Chuo/Sobu Line (Local) (Yellow), Chuo Line (Rapid) (Orange), Saikyo Line (Green- blue), Shinkansen.

I have some friends who spend more than 2 hours every day from Chiba or Saitama to Waseda University which makes them very tired when they arrive at school. There are many other lines connect Tokyo with the metropolis’ outer regions and surrounding prefectures. There is one interesting fact is many of the private railway companies also operate department stores usually at their train lines’ major stations. That’s why when you see the name of the line; you will feel familiar because they have many famous department stores around all the famous tourist spots. Some of them are:

  • Kanagawa – Tokyo: Tokyu Railway
  • Saitama – Tochigi (including Nikko): Tobu Railway
  • Tokyo Tama Region – Saitama: Seibu Railway
  • Tokyo Tama Region: Keio Railway
  • Kanagawa: Odakyu Railway (you also can go to Hakone) & Keikyu Railway (including Haneda Airport also)
  • Chiba (connect Narita Airport to central Tokyo): Keisei Railway
  • Akihabara – Tsukuba, Ibaraki: Tsukuba Express

Here are some useful websites for your information:
https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/
https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/
https://global.jr-central.co.jp/en/

Another way to go around the downtown is the Tokyo Metro. It’s one of Tokyo’s subway operators. Waseda and Nishi Waseda are the nearest station to Waseda University. There are some major lines: Ginza line (Orange), Marunouchi line (Red), Hibiya line (Silver), Tozai line (Sky blue), Chiyoda line (Green), Yurakucho (Gold), Hanzomon line (Purple), Namboku line (Emerald), Fukutoshin (Brown).

You will find it more easily as the website is very useful and friendly display in English!
Tokyo Metro Website: https://www.tokyometro.jp/en/

Finally, as I’ve said at first paragraph, Tokyo’s train network is very complicated and hard to use but after a few times using, you will feel better as you can follow the website and the train apps on your phone! With a bit of planning and research, you will find it more interesting and easy to go around by yourself!

S.R (Student Staff Leader)

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